06/18/2014 12:13 EDT | Updated 08/18/2014 05:59 EDT

When Giving a Gift Feels Better Than Getting One

I hope my children are learning to enjoy giving as much as I do. When they get the package, they'll wonder, What is this? Why am I getting a package? Who sent it? I want other people to feel the way I felt.

I picked the kids up from camp at the usual time. We took the usual route home, and it seemed in every way like an ordinary day. However, our door was blocked by a mysterious, large, white box. It was addressed to me, and I didn't recognize the return address. What a nice surprise!

I brought the box inside, and continued with our usual afternoon routine. Lunchboxes had to be emptied, water bottles rinsed and set out to dry. Snacks for the kids, of course, and a short discussion of dinner with my husband. The entire time I was completing these everyday chores, a low murmur of excitement ran through my brain. I wonder what's in the box? I wonder who sent it? How nice to receive a surprise gift like this!

The kids' curiosity gave out before mine. "Come on, Mom!" they cried. "Let's see what you got!"

I opened the box, and immediately knew what it was: a gift that wasn't for me. It was a gift that we had ordered for Caitlin -- that she had chosen, actually, to purchase with the birthday money she had not spent in April. We'd forgotten all about it, and now it was here.

Caitlin was thrilled. She immediately named the giant, purple manatee "Mr. Seacow," and began to dance around with it. She found as many silly things as she could to do with Mr. Seacow, and then ran off to her room -- presumably to find more silly things to do with him. I loved seeing her so happy.

"Gee, Mom, I'm sorry," Andrew said. "You really do deserve a nice surprise." (Isn't he sweet?)

"Thanks, Andrew, but I'm really not disappointed," I replied honestly. "I had a few minutes thinking that the box was for me, and they were wonderful!"

"That's, um...sort of sad," said Andrew.

"Not to me! It was great. Actually, it makes me want to send someone else a mysterious white box. When they get the package, they'll wonder, What is this? Why am I getting a package? Who sent it? I want other people to feel the way I felt."

The next afternoon, we went straight from camp to the mall to buy summer shoes for the kids. Shoe shopping is not the kids' favorite activity, but the promise of frozen yogurt afterwards tends to make the outing go more smoothly. Shoes purchased and yogurt consumed, we were heading out when we passed a toy-and-game store. This became what I call a 'gift opportunity.'

We've successfully downsized, as you may have read, and have therefore (mostly) stopped buying things 'just because.' However, the white box had filled me with the joy of giving! Caitlin and Andrew each found something they would really like. Since we have cut most non-essential purchases, it was a wonderful treat for all of us, and I headed towards the register with an admittedly dumb smile on my face.

Then Caitlin found something to put in a white box. A surprise for someone else: a Kermit the Frog.

It just so happens that their aunt -- my sister -- loves a few classic pop-culture icons, and one of them is Kermit the Frog. Never mind that she's over 40 and has no practical use for a stuffed animal! Kermit was positively adorable, and would fit nicely in a white box.

A few days from now, a mysterious box will arrive at my sister's door. What is this? she will wonder. And she'll get a kick out of Kermit, not because she wanted or needed one, but because we love her and we sent it! The card inside reads, "A Very Merry Un-Birthday to You" (in tribute to Alice in Wonderland).

I hope my children are learning to enjoy giving as much as I do. While I won't do this every week, I admit that I went shopping again yesterday. Keep an eye out, friends! A white box may very well soon arrive at your doorstep. It makes me so happy to celebrate your Un-Birthday! If you enjoy the surprise, go ahead and send a white box to someone you love.


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